$17.9 Million Jury Verdict Upheld on Appeal

by: Anthony F. Della Pelle
1 Jun 2008

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court recently upheld and affirmed a jury verdict of $17,900,000.00 as just compensation for the taking of a 75 acre farm in Piscataway Township for open space.  The farm, owned by the Halper family, had been the subject of a long-standing battle between the Township and the Halper family which began in 1999 when the Township filed its condemnation complaint to take the Halper property.

According to the Township’s appraiser, the property was worth $4.3 million at the time the complaint was filed in 1999.  But a ruling by the trial court prior to trial established that the property should have been valued in 2004, when the Township filed its Declaration of Taking and deposited its estimated compensation into the Trust Fund of the Superior Court of New Jersey.  Due to an improving real estate market during that time period, the value of the property increased significantly — the Township’s appraised value increased to over $12 million as of 2004, and the Halper’s appraiser valued the property in excess of $20 million.

After a trial in early 2006, a Middlesex County jury returned a verdict for $17.9 million.  The Township appealed, suggesting that the property should have been valued as of the 1999 filing of its complaint.  However, the appellate court agreed with the trial judge’s ruling, and found that when the value of condemned property increases between the time of the complaint and the the time that the Declaration of Taking is filed and funds deposited, the second action is the date of valuation so long as the increase is due to market forces and inflation.

McKirdy & Riskin’s Edward D. McKirdy, Jeffrey Lewis and Josepth Grather, www.mrod.law, represented the Halper family as trial counsel and in connection with the valuation issues on appeal.

Read the Appellate Court opinion here.